Overview: Cancer can be difficult on your emotional health as well as your physical and sexual health. Man Up To Cancer helps by giving men tools to break through isolation and find support and offers a blueprint for men living with cancer to get the emotional support they need.
The Emotional Effects of Cancer
With any cancer diagnosis, emotional symptoms are common, particularly anxiety, depression, and a broad range of negative emotions — from anger to fear — classed under the term “distress.” Men, in particular, are more likely to experience these emotional symptoms and experience them more intensely than women. For example, an analysis in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study found that men who were diagnosed with any of the forms of cancer studied were more prone to depression.
This is generally attributed to a few factors:
- Men are less likely to use mental health resources, such as therapists or support groups, and building an emotional support system from scratch can be difficult when dealing with a cancer diagnosis and other life stressors.
- Men are generally expected to be “tough” and “independent,” not needing or asking for help, so when something they can’t overcome on their own comes along, they can struggle.
- Some types of cancer, such as prostate cancer or testicular cancer, can directly threaten sexual functioning through erectile dysfunction, and in turn, some men’s masculine identity or sense of self, which can be difficult to talk about.
- Even in the absence of these factors, cancer can have intense emotional impact that can be difficult for others to understand. Feelings of isolation or that others “just don’t understand” are common.
- An overall lack of mental health resources can make it difficult to find support, even for men who are open to it.
Building Better Emotional Health Models
This is why groups like Man Up To Cancer can help with laying out an emotional framework and offering support. Founded by Trevor Maxwell, who lives with stage IV colon cancer, Man Up To Cancer notes that many male cancer patients “check out” after a diagnosis and attempt to handle the emotional aspects of cancer alone, which can make the path to recovery harder.
The group has three aspects:
- The website, which hosts the group’s blog, broader online community, videos, and even a special beer brewed for the group. It touches on a wide range of topics, from sexual health to exercise to mindfulness.
- The Man Up To Cancer podcast, a weekly series hosted by Maxwell. The podcast is a mixture of personal experience, such as Maxwell’s recent third “cancerversary” episode, and interviews with other men living with cancer or who have survived it, how they coped (or didn’t) with their diagnosis, and what they’ve learned on their journeys.
- The Howling Place, a private Facebook group for men only where they can open up about their feelings and needs and get support that may not be available elsewhere. (Follow the link to send a request to join the group.)
We don’t often talk about the emotional components of cancer, and we should. Groups like Man Up To Cancer are important to helping move past social stigma and ensure every man gets the support he needs. To learn more about cancer, erectile dysfunction, and other aspects of men’s health, follow the eDrugstore blog!
Dan is a long-time freelance writer focusing on technology, science, health, and medicine, with a lifelong interest in physics, biology, and medicine. His work has taken a particular focus on scientific studies “beyond the headlines,” reading the study to more closely examine the results.